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Vaccine alliance Gavi expects India to resume supplies soon, even if ‘in reduced quantities’

The vaccine alliance had, in March, braced for a delay in Covid-19 vaccine deliveries from India, after the second wave hit the country.

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New Delhi: Gavi, the global alliance on vaccines, is hoping that India will resume its delivery of Covid-19 vaccines in the third quarter, starting July.  

According to Gavi spokesperson, the alliance is expecting some deliveries to begin even if they are in “reduced quantities”, particularly from the Pune-based vaccine maker Serum Institute of India (SII). 

“We remain in regular and close contact with both the government and SII, and remain hopeful that deliveries could resume, in reduced quantities in the third quarter,” the spokesperson said in an email in response to ThePrint’s queries with regard to impact of India’s second Covid wave on the Covax initiative. 

The Geneva-headquartered Gavi is a global private-public health partnership that aims to ensure improved access to new and underused vaccines, especially for children in the world’s poorest countries.

Covax was launched in April last year by Gavi, the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission and France with an objective to distribute vaccines to lower and middle income countries.

The alliance had, in March, braced for a delay in Covid-19 vaccine deliveries from India, following the second wave in the country.  

“Deliveries of vaccines produced by the SII to lower-income countries participating in the COVAX facility will face delays during March and April as the government of India battles a new wave of infections,” it had said earlier. 

In the email to ThePrint, the Gavi spokesperson cautioned that “global access to vaccines is not happening fast enough, and it’s in everyone’s interest that we get there sooner”. 

“We need countries and partners to let COVAX deliver so that we can bring an end to the acute phase of the pandemic,” the spokesperson added. “We need every country in the world to lift all restrictions on raw materials and other inputs that are preventing vaccine manufacturers from scaling up production.”

According to the agreement between Gavi and SII, the vaccine maker is contracted to provide COVAX with the Covishield vaccine. As of March, COVAX had been supplied with 28 million Covishield doses.

“COVAX was set up to accelerate the end of the acute phase of the pandemic by ensuring doses of vaccine to those that are most vulnerable and we stand ready to help India in any way we can,” the spokesperson said.  

COVAX’s goal is to deliver 2 billion doses, including 1.3 billion to lower income economies, by the end of 2021. 

This includes India, which will receive approximately 20 per cent of the total doses available to advance market commitment-eligible countries through the COVAX facility. New Delhi will also receive 20 per cent of the total funding available to AMC-eligible countries for urgent technical assistance and cold chain equipment.

So far, it has delivered 70 million doses to lower income economies through the Gavi COVAX AMC (including 10 million to India) and self-financing participants. 

Also read: SII begins manufacturing, stockpiling 2nd Covid vaccine Covovax after Modi govt nod

India a powerhouse of global vaccine manufacturing: GAVI

The Gavi spokesperson reiterated that the organisation believes India is a global powerhouse and its vaccine manufacturers will play a key role, going forward.

“With the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer by volume, and other manufacturers, India is a global vaccines’ powerhouse,” the email read. “Clearly today, domestic production is focused on domestic needs, but once more production is ramped. local producers will have a global impact.”

The spokesperson, however, asserted that all the vaccines manufactured should be shared equally, while discouraging “vaccine diplomacy”. 

“What is most important in this respect is that doses are shared equitably through COVAX so they can have the greatest impact, rather than bilaterally via so-called vaccine diplomacy,” the email said. 

COVAX has delivered vaccines faster than anytime in history 

COVAX, according to the spokesperson, was set up to avoid the mistakes of past pandemics and ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines. 

“It has delivered vaccines many times faster, to many more countries and in far greater volumes than has been achieved at any time in history,” the email said.

The spokesperson added that it is important to protect people across the globe before any other future outbreak. “The emergence of deadly new variants show the risks we face when we allow the virus to circulate, which is why it is vitally important we protect people everywhere before any further outbreaks happen,” the email read. 

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: Covid cocktail drug used to treat Trump now available in India, price is Rs 59,750


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